Steve Jobs has announced his resignation as CEO of Apple. He will remain chairman of the board of directors. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has been named as his replacement. The Apple co-founder has taken medical leave for health problems this year, fueling much speculation about Apple’s life after Steve. The swift confirmation of Cook as CEO indicates a smooth transition as part of Apple’s succession plan.

From inspiring Windows to pioneering creative uses of personal computers to popularizing quality industrial design and mobile media consumption, to finally delivering on the sci-fi promise of tablet computing, Jobs has been at the forefront of global cultural evolution for decades.

The Steve Jobs Legacy

After co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in 1976, Jobs was absent for a tumultuous period of Apple’s history between 1985 and 1997, during which he founded NeXT Computer and Pixar.

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Resignation here:

Apple’s acquisition of NeXT brought Jobs back into the fold, and the era that followed brought us the iMac, the iPod, and all the successive innovations in personal computing and digital media that followed. This year, Apple has launched a major release of Mac OS X, and the iOS 5 update for its mobile devices is set to launch this fall. Jobs’ vision for Apple’s range of products has made the company one of the most valuable in the world.

The Right Man For the Job

COO Tim Cook, who will succeed Jobs as CEO, has made much of this success possible by ensuring efficient supply chains and exclusive access to parts and materials for the manufacture of Apple’s hardware. Thanks to Cook’s operational vision, Apple’s new family of devices has made it difficult for other companies to compete on both quality and price.

The iPad dominates the tablet market, which has so upended PC sales that HP left the PC business entirely, citing the punishing reality of the “tablet effect.” Cook has been instrumental in shaping Apple’s current strategy, and he already acted as CEO while Jobs was on medical leave.

Apple’s board of directors issued this press release today:

CUPERTINO, Calif., Aug 24, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Apple’s Board of Directors today announced that Steve Jobs has resigned as Chief Executive Officer, and the Board has named Tim Cook, previously Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, as the company’s new CEO. Jobs has been elected Chairman of the Board and Cook will join the Board, effective immediately.

“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” said Art Levinson, Chairman of Genentech, on behalf of Apple’s Board. “Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world class executive team. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.”

“The Board has complete confidence that Tim is the right person to be our next CEO,” added Levinson. “Tim’s 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.”

Jobs submitted his resignation to the Board today and strongly recommended that the Board implement its succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO.

Business Insider has Jobs’ resignation letter to Apple and its board of directors.

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Photo credit: Apple